Places in Malaysia Site Map
Ngajat Sumazau
Joget Zapin Mak Yong Bhangra Kathak Bharata Natyam Odissi Lion Dance
1. Dances of the Sarawak's Indigenous People
The Iban people performed the Ngajat dance in the 16th century to signifies victory from battle. In the modern days, if you visit the Iban people in Sarawak, the male dancers will wear large feathers and loin cloth called cawet and the female dancers will wear headdress.
Ngajat dance

Ngajat dance is performed during the Gawai Festival which falls on 31 May every year. This is done after rice harvesting to give offering to the rice spirit. This ceremony called miring ceremony and is carried out by Lemanbang, a male shaman / bomoh.

Another popular dance in Sarawak by the Kenyah people, subtribe of Orang Ulu is Datun Julud. It is a dance of happiness started in the olden days by their prince, Nyik Selung.
2. Dances of the Sabah's Indigenous People
The KadazanDusun, main group in Sabah perform the Sumazau dance during their festival. It is danced with their arms stretched out to their sides and flapped like birds flying. The movements are slow, with their legs and heel moving up and down slowly. It was said that this dance was created by a woman who started it after seeing a pair of hornbills flying together so lovely in the sky.

The Kadazandusun also celebrate harvest festival called Kaamatan Festival. Their rice festival is usually celebrated on the 01-Jun every year by offering a bowl of their best harvest of the year and a chicken. In this kaamatan festival, their women priestess called bobohizan will perform a ritual to start off their merry making peformances.
3. Malay Dances and Arts
Malays in Malaysia have many traditional dances mostly originated from middle-east in the olden days when they came over to trade. Some dances originated from the colonial countries that occupied the states in Malaysia and some from our neighbouring countries.

The most popular dance of the Malay people is Joget. Joget started in Melaka when the Portuguese came over to Malacca for spice trade. In Malacca, it is called Cha-Kun-Chak. It steps are fast beat and graceful. It is usually dance in pairs.

A popular dance in Johore is Zapin Dance. It originated from the middle east, mainly Persia, brought in by the Javanese. Traditionally, this dance was performed by male only but now, women dance too. Traditionally, this dance was about spreading of Islamic civilisation. The dancers usually wear Malay attire with their samping. They dance with one arm moving showing holding supposedly a dagger and the other hand holding their samping showing that they fought with one arm only.

Other popular dances are Piring Dance in Negeri Sembilan, Boria which is popular in Penang, Dikir Barat and Asyik Dance which are popular in Kelantan, Gamelan dance which s popular in Terengganu, Turtle Dance which is popular in Pahang, Canggung Dance which is popular in Perlis and many others such as Dondang Sayang and Bangsawan.
Mak Yong

Mak Yong is a traditional theatrical performance for the female royalties in the olden days. Mak Yong was believed to have originated from Kelantan but the original dancers ran away to Thailand before returning to Kelantan. In the olden days, the prformers will have to perform an opening theatre and closing theatre rituals. The important starting performance is the 'Menghadap Rebab' or Facing the Rebab sequence. This sequence has sitting, kneeling, squarting, standing and walking sections. This dances was usually about romantic Malay Kingdom and the main characters are 'Mak Yong' the queen, 'Mak Yong Muda' the princess, 'Pak Yong' the king, 'Pak Yong Muda' the prince and 2 comedians. The main musical instruments are rebab, gong, seruling and serunai. Mak Yong was listed by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in year 2008.
Shadow Puppet Play

Shadow Puppet Play or Wayang Kulit in Malay Language is a traditional theatrical arts of the Malays. It has influences from many SEA countries. There are 4 different types of wayang kulit mainly based on the area of popularity. The first is Wayang Kulit Siam / Kelantan which was influenced by Siam and popular in East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia. The stories are mainly taken from Ramayana and Mahabarata but Malaysianised. The second type is Wayang Kulit Melayu which was influenced by Jawa and is popular in Kelantan only.
Wayang Kulit Puppets

The puppets used are made from goat skin or buffalo hide. The main puppeteer is Tok Dalang and he is accompanied by musical group consisting of players using serunai, gong, gendang, kesi and gedumbak. Tok Dalang is supposed to be skilled at making puppets. He will narate the speeches of the puppets, sing and move the puppets accordingly. He is the only person who can turn on and off the lights that will make shadows of the puppets on a white screen in front of him.
4. Dances of other races in Peninsula Malaysia
Other races such as the indian community and chinese community also have their own traditional cultural dance.

The indian community has a popular Bhangra Dance by the Sikh community. Originally, it was a harvest dance but now, it is performed in social celebrations. The music are mainly romantic theme and dance follows the beat of musical instrument called dhol, a double barreled drum.

The indian community also has many other classical dances such as Kathak, Bharata Natyam and Odissi. Kathak originated from northern India, a narrative dance with fast gootwork, spins and ends with dramatic climax. The stories are usually mythological stories influenced by Persia during Mughal period. Bharata Natyam is a solo dance based on ancient Indian epics with over 100 dance steps. Odissi is an eastern Indian dance, usually based on Lord Krishnan history. Odissi is distinguished from other Indian dance by its importance in tribhangi and chauka (basic square stance). Tribhangi consist of independence movements of the head, chest and pelvis. This dance isusually passed down by Gurus. One famous Odissi dancer in Malaysia is Ramli Ibrahim popular with his Odissi Sutra.
Umbrella Dance

As for the chinese community, this group is popular with their Lion dance. Apart from this, there is Umbrella Dance which was a popular folk dance during the Han dynasty. However, chinese Malaysian are not keen in dance and the popular ones are those from the martial art groups which concentrate on Lion Dance, Dragon Dance and Fan Dance.
Fan Dance
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